Jakarta’s Christian governor recorded the most votes in the Indonesian capital’s gubernatorial elections yesterday (15 February), but failed to achieve the 50% necessary to secure his re-election.
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (better known as “Ahok”) recorded 43% of the votes, around 3% more than his closest rival, Anies Baswedan. Voters will now have to choose between the two men in a second round of voting in April.
Tens of thousands of Muslims had taken to the streets of Jakarta in recent days in an attempt to persuade Indonesians not to re-elect Ahok, who is accused of “misusing” a Qur’anic verse (which, some say, suggests Muslims should not be ruled by non-Muslims) in a speech last year. He says he was not criticising the verse itself; only those who would seek to use it against him.
Thomas Muller, analysts at Open Doors’ World Watch Research unit, says the result is a “strong sign indicating that many people care more about getting the big problems Jakarta faces solved (e.g. infrastructure, housing and corruption) than about religious differences”.
“However,” he added, “the blasphemy charges still hang like a sword over Ahok’s head … If convicted, it would hardly be possible for Ahok to continue in public office.
“If re-elected, Ahok will have to navigate carefully in a very aggressive environment. Indonesia’s image of being a tolerant Muslim country with a tolerant brand of Islam is suffering increasing damage.”